What Makes Teaching and Learning Inclusive?

On September 26th, the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning welcomed Dr. Shaun R. Harper, Professor and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania, for a talk titled “What Makes Teaching and Learning Inclusive?"

This event kicked off the 2016 – 2017 Inclusive Teaching at Princeton series, an initiative that began last year with “Politics of the Classroom: Who Speaks? Who is Heard?” Addressing a group of close to 100 students, faculty and postdoctoral associates, Dr. Harper gave an overview of key concepts needed to understand the experience of students of color on campus, and suggested a number of concrete steps that faculty can take to make their teaching more inclusive of students from underrepresented groups and effective for all. He asked faculty to, among other things, be sensitive to the experience of “onlyness’, meaning when a student from an under-represented group is one or one of a few in a class; to appreciate the differences within racial minorities; to meaningfully integrate diverse perspectives into the course curriculum; and to responsibly address racial tensions in the classroom when they arise.

Zitsi Mirakhur, a graduate student from the Office of Population Research, said “I found Dr. Harper's talk really helpful. His research findings provided me with a clearer idea of my students' needs and, based on those, I now have a list of strategies I can try daily in my classes as well as bigger-picture concerns to check in with my students about when I create my mid- and end-of-semester feedback forms.”

After his address, Dr. Harper facilitated a discussion of inclusive teaching practices over dinner with undergraduates, graduate students and faculty members. One participant, graduate student in Chemistry Christin Monroe, had this to say about the talk: “"When teaching it can be difficult to put yourself in your students' shoes, it is even more difficult to understand the perspective of a student that has a different background than you and possibly may identify as a minority. Sean Harper's talk was a great kickoff for students and faculty to start to think about the perspectives of their peers who identify as minorities and to think about ways in which they can improve the feeling of inclusivity both within and outside the classroom.”

Dr. Harper’s talk was co-sponsored by the Teagle Foundation, the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity.

Upcoming events in the Inclusive Teaching at Princeton series will include a performance by the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching Players on October 26th at 4:30 p.m. in the Frist Theater. Spring events will include a student photo context, “This is my Princeton Classroom”, and a panel on teaching as activism and service.